Alternatives to Coal Plants Tops Environmentalists' Legislative Agenda

AUSTIN-A coalition of environmental, religious, sportsmen and parents groups announced their agenda on Thursday for the upcoming legislative session. Topping the list was a push to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy as alternatives to the construction of 19 additional coal-fired power plants.

“Air pollution is already making Texas families sick and more dirty coal plants will mean more asthma, lung disease and premature deaths,” said Dr. Lisa Doggett of Austin Physicians for Social Responsibility. “The good news is we can meet our energy needs much faster, cleaner and cheaper by investing in energy efficiency and renewable energy.”

The coalition, known as the Alliance for a Clean Texas (ACT), announced support for a comprehensive energy efficiency program that increase the state’s efficiency goal to require that 50% of load growth be offset by efficiency, require regular updates to commercial and residential building codes, require appliance manufacturers to improve the efficiency of ten consumer products like office water coolers and DVD players, and establish a solar rebate program.

“Energy efficiency standards are a win-win-win policy,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas.  “We can reduce our energy at half the cost of coal plants, in a fraction of the time and with none of the pollution.”

Coal-burning power plants continue to be major contributors to serious health problems In Texas, particularly among children, senior citizens and other sensitive groups. Particle pollution alone results in 1,160 premature deaths each year in Texas. Unfortunately, TXU and other electric utilities are working to build 19 dirty, coal-burning power plants, emitting more smog-forming pollution and brain-damaging toxic mercury and as much global warming pollutants as 20 million cars. Pollution from 19 proposed coal-fired power plants in Texas could cause as many as 240 additional deaths each year and as many as 12,000 over the plants’ expected 50-year lifespans, according to a new analysis releasedin November by health and environmental groups.

“We need to call a time-out on the permitting of these plants until all the information is in, because when all the facts are considered, we're confident they'll show that clean energy and efficiency are the smarter choices”, said Tom “Smitty” Smith, Director of Public Citizen’s Texas office.

Following an executive order by Governor Perry, the coal plants are being rushed through the regulatory process, reducing the time for the public to voice their opinion and for scientists to complete studies on the long-term impacts of the plants. But despite the rush, the earliest the plants will be brought online is 2009, a full year after projected power shortages begin. A recent poll found that 74% of Texans “would prefer to see major conservation efforts undertaken in the state first in order to offset a major portion of the electricity that would be required from the proposed new coal-fired power plants.” 

The Alliance’s agenda also calls for increased funding for state parks, more water conservation efforts, and tougher enforcement of environmental laws. View the Alliance for a Clean Texas’ full agenda online at www.AllianceforCleanTexas.org.